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Bellingham
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Western student wins photography contest

By Mathew Roland

Alex Powell, a visual journalism student at Western, won first place in the Essence of Bellingham photo contest. A reception for the contest was held on Friday, July 7, at Bellingham City Hall the same night as Bellingham’s Art Walk.

Powell’s best-of-show-winning photo is of a 4X4 Jeep zooming down the highway on a winter day. The highway is lined with dark evergreen trees and the road is wet from melted snow. A Western men’s crew hoodie is hanging over the back of the passenger seat.  Powell, who was a former photo editor for The Western Front, used this photo on the cover of a past issue of Western Weekend.

“It was kinda sketchy,” Powell said. “I had to hang on to the back of my buddy’s Jeep and we were going about 40 mph down [Chuckanut Drive].”

Wearing winter gloves, a balaclava and a winter hat, Powell held the camera above his head while his friend sped down Highway 11. Even if you aren’t from Bellingham, Chuckanut is iconic of the area, Powell said.

Powell set out to capture the image with the idea of encapsulating the free feeling of zooming down the open road. Powell used a Canon 5D Mark lll and a 24-70mm lens with a slow shutter speed to give the photo a blurred effect.

“The highway was a good representation of what Bellingham feels like,” Powell said.

Originally a kinesiology major headed for medical school, Powell decided to switch his career path to one that allowed him more creativity and opportunities to get outdoors.

Powell will be graduating from Western in August and will go on to work as a photography intern for the Bellingham Bells, a collegiate baseball club. Powell’s goals include working as a photographer for a newspaper or moving to Colorado to photograph alpine sports.

“The essence of Bellingham is the community; it’s who we are. It’s how we respond to the nature of our community and how we are inclusive of so many.”

Shannon Taysi, Bellingham’s outdoor art curator

The contest featured several different categories including amateur, college and professional. Within each category, photographers could submit into subcategories such as weather, wildlife, people and landscapes.  

Shannon Taysi works for Bellingham’s Planning and Community Development Department and is also responsible for Bellingham’s outdoor art collection. Taysi said the contest was started 11 years ago to collect photos that represented a day in the life of Bellingham in a one-year period, and to document how the city changes over time.

“The essence of Bellingham is the community; it’s who we are. It’s how we respond to the nature of our community and how we are inclusive of so many,” Taysi said.

Photographer and filmographer Alexander Hallett was awarded second place for his candid image of a young girl and her father both wearing tutus at a city festival. He said he was lucky that he had his camera with him and was able to capture the community moment. Hallet said the photo illustrates what the Bellingham community is like: adventurous with a little bit of whimsy.

“Everybody is a little quirky,” Hallett said.

The third place photo was submitted by Dex Horton and shows construction on Bellingham’s waterfront. In the photo, an American flag flies high above the historic granary building adorned with scaffolding, and in the distance is the Mount Baker Theatre.

Taysi said it is important to support local artists because it gives them the recognition they need to advance their careers. She wants to encourage younger photographers to submit to the contest. There were no entries for the K-5 age group, she said.

The Whatcom Museum will take all of this year’s submissions and add them to the cities archives. This will preserve the cities legacy for generations to come.

“These images will be available for everyone, forever,” Taysi said.

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